The Government of Ondo State has expressed displeasure over the manner in which Cocoa farmers in Ofosu, Idanre Local Government Area have been going about their planned relocation for better output.
The Senior Special Assistant (SSA) to Governor, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu on Agriculture and Agribusiness, Pastor Akin Olotu, asserted that the government and his agency will not succumb to blackmail from the farmers.
The farmers who had a few weeks ago protested the alleged sale of their farmland to a Chinese company, petitioned Governor Akeredolu through their lawyer Tope Temokun to investigate the SSA over alleged levies being collected from them.
Expressing shock over the allegations in the petition, Olotu said all monies paid by the farmers were collected by the state Internal Revenue Service which he said were for the annual rent of the farm.
While emphasising that the action of the state government as regards the farmland was in the interest of the farmers and the state, the SSA maintained that he is open to probe over the spurious allegations.
He said ‘The petition is pure blackmail and I’m shocked that such will come from the chamber of learned person. I’m saying emphatically that I don’t know anything about this idea of people collecting money from anybody.
‘They said they paid N10,000 in 2019/2021 per farmer. Yes, the state government had a policy of not driving away farmers from the forest.
‘They have been there for so long, rather than driving them away, let’s see how we can gradually reorganise the forest and that started with the idea of getting them registered.
‘So, it is not new and money was not paid into my purse. Everyone that paid that time paid N10,000 for a year’s rent. In the petition, it was stated that the money was paid to Internal Revenue Services, not me.
‘It was clearly stated that they remain a tenant on the land on an annual basis and the government reserves the right to decide on the land at any time in the interest of the state.’
Olotu further stated that ‘I’m saying it openly that I have never issued ID cards to anybody, dead or alive. And this idea of somebody collecting N3,000 each for issuance of ID card, they should come and point out that very person.
‘Our own cocoa is 400 kg per hectare. Ghana’s land is not up to ours and they are producing more than us which means they are getting more cocoa from one hectare, about two to three times what we are getting.
‘For the farmers to have better and quality output, the arrangement had been made to get them cocoa seedlings and to relocate them to a better area.
“If I have a hand in anybody collecting N3000, I want to be penalised. Before God and man, I have never for once ask any farmer to give me one kobo. Even when they give me voluntarily I reject it. All the monies are being paid to the board of internal revenue.’
Africa Today News, New York reports that there has been a running battle between the State Government and Cocoa farmers in recent times.